Friday, 10/11/2023 15:18

Hải Phòng lose to Sabah, on brink of AFC Cup exit


Midfielder Ramon Machado of Sabah runs the ball past Hải Phòng players during the AFC Cup's Group H match on November 9 in Kota, Malaysia. Sabah won 4-1. Photo

HÀ NỘI — Coach Chu Đình Nghiêm blamed the shortage of quality players and poor finishing as the reason Hải Phòng FC lost 4-1 to Sabah FC at the AFC Cup on November 9 in Kota, Malaysia.

Hải Phòng were top of Group H with six points after two wins and one defeat. They were confident in the second meet with Sabah after their 3-2 win two weeks ago at Lạch Tray Stadium.

However, the rematch was not easy for Nghiêm and his players although they started better than the hosts.

The first chance fell to Hải Phòng’s Nguyễn Hữu Sơn two minutes into the game, but his effort from a tight angle went narrowly wide of Khairul Fahmi’s goal.

The visitors dominated the early exchanges, with Yuri Mamute looking threatening with a snapshot from the edge of the box. Hải Phòng continued to use Sơn’s pace on the right-hand side to get in behind Sabah’s defence.

Yet it was the hosts who broke the deadlock. Daniel Ting opened the score on 20 minutes. Darren Lok steered home Sabah’s second of the match with a glancing header 14 minutes later.

Gabriel Peres flicked his header into the corner to make it 3-0 30 minutes into the second half.

Hải Phòng were finally able to get on the scoresheet in the final five minutes. An in-swinging corner found Mamute unmarked who was able to head home from close range.

Sabah were not done. The hosts added a stoppage-time fourth through substitute Jafri Firdaus Chew after a quick breakaway found him all alone inside the box.

"We played this match without three key players including goalkeeper Nguyễn Đình Triệu because of injuries," said Nghiêm whose foreign defender Benjamin Van Meurs and midfielder Đàm Tiến Dũng were the other absentees.

"We have the opportunity in the early minutes but we could not score. In the second half, we also wasted many threatening chances. If we had narrowed the score earlier in the second half, it would push my team up.

"Sabah did succeed with their opportunities. They deserve to win this match," he said.

The loss dropped Hải Phòng to the second position behind Sabah. They need to win two remaining matches while waiting for Sabah's mistake to secure the only place in the next round.

"In AFC Cup, only four group leading teams and one strongest second-placed side can qualify for the next phrase knockout stage. A loss to Sabah pushed us into a difficult situation. We will have to do our best in the last games, not easy missions for us," Nghiêm said.

Next up, Sabah heads to Singapore to face Hougang, while Hải Phòng visits Indonesian PSM Makassar on November 30. VNS

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